NJ Transit striking up concerns on campus

A potential New Jersey Transit Rail Operations strike starting as early as next week could heavily affect members of the Seton Hall community who on the transportation service to commute to and from campus.

The strike, which could start as early as 12:01 a.m. on March 13, will affect more than 160,000 New Jersey customers who ride the rail system on a typical weekday, according a press release issued by NJ Transit on March 3.

There will only be 40,000 bus seats available for the 160,000 NJ Transit commuters, according to the NJ Transit.

NJ Transit trains are a major aspect of the Seton Hall-South Orange community.  More than 4,000 passengers depart from the South Orange train station daily, with additional commuters using South Orange’s Mountain Station, according to the Township of South Orange Village website.  

A portion of the 4,000 passengers departing from the South Orange station are SHU students, staff and faculty.

Patrick Linfante, assistant vice president and director of the Department of Public Safety, said that there will not be changes to the transportation provided by Seton Hall. This includes no changes to the SHUfly schedule which is closely synced with daily morning scheduled train times in South Orange.

The Village’s website further stated that it is working closely with the South Orange Parking Authority and NJ Transit on developing preliminary plans.

Three alternate commuting options include using the PATH Train Service out of Newark Penn Station, NJ Transit Bus services, and opting for commuter carpooling. Monthly passes for NJ Transit will be cross-honored by NJ Transit Bus.

Linfante said that Seton Hall staff members have also been in contact with the Parking Authority in preparation for the strike. He said that he hopes that NJ Transit “steps up” and provides enough buses for commuters.

“I’m hoping that the strike is settled,” Linfante said. He added that he will have the Department of Public Safety keep the SHU community updated in the case of a strike.

Reesa Greenwald, director of the Career Center, said in an email interview that the Career Center is looking into available options for students. In the event of the strike, Greenwald said that she will be reaching out to the 75 students who currently intern in the city and have recorded their internship with the Career Center.

“In the meantime, I will be sending an email to all intern employers in NYC who have our students this semester, to request their flexibility during this time,” Greenwald said. “I’ll offer options for them so that they work of interns can continue, even though they might not be able to do their regular hours.

Craig Witmer, senior diplomacy and international relations major, interns in the Upper West Side of New York.

Witmer said that he sees both sides of conflict to the NJ Transit strike.

“I feel like there’s two sides. You’ve got the anger like, ‘Man, I can’t use the train.’ But then looking at it from the perspective of the people whose job it is to get them there, they haven’t had a contract,” Witmer said. “At a certain point if you don’t get what you deserve, you need to do something about it.”

Witmer said that he still plans to make it to his internship even in the case of the strike. He added that he will use the NJ Transit Bus services since his monthly pass will be cross-honored.

“You can look at it as a positive opportunity to show how great you are as an intern and how great SHU interns are,” Witmer said on attending an internship despite a difficult commute. “It reflects well on yourself and the University.”

Concerned graduate student John Fernandes, also a graduate assistant for Blackboard Support at the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center (TLTC), said that he understands that leaving for work early or taking the bus are alternate solutions to the NJ Transit strike.

“However, everyone who takes the transit will be doing the same thing thus causing more disarray,” Fernandes said in an email.

He added that he will either take a bus or telecommute to fulfill his responsibilities as a graduate assistant.

For SHU community members like William Pace, instructor of digital media production, taking the bus is one of his only options if a contract between NJ Transit and union workers is not reached.

Pace travels to and from Manhattan, N.Y. at least three days a week to work on campus. Pace said that he does not have a car so driving to campus is not an option for him.

“If I thought it was going to be just a day or two, I might stay with a friend. I’ll ride it out and stay with a friend out here, another teacher. If it was going to be longer though I guess I’m going to start looking into bus options,” Pace said.  

NJ Transit officials estimate that a 23-mile backup will occur for those traveling on Route 78 into the Holland Tunnel, and a 21-mile backup for those going to Manhattan, N.Y. through the Lincoln Tunnel.

“I find the potential strike to be more alarming than how most people are reacting to it,” Fernandes said. “Many are saying it will be fine and everything will be solved by Monday, but how can we really be so sure?”

SHU community members may have to adjust to alternate commuting plans if the strike occurs. The last NJ Transit strike happened in 1983 and lasted 34 days, according to NJ.com.

Other students like Jordan Butt, a sophomore graphic design and math major, rely on NJ Transit for a casual day in the city or for travelling home.

Butt, from Scottsdale, Ariz., said that she uses NJ Transit to get to and from Newark Airport when travelling, and when going into the city once or twice a month.
The potential strike of more than 4,000 union workers would be the result of a failure to agree on a contract with their employer since July 2011, when their last contract expired. No agreement was reached on Tuesday, March 8, when union officials and NJ Transit met. NJ Transit held its monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 9 and will meet again with union officials on Thursday, March 10.

Leah Carton can be reached at leah.carton@student.shu.edu

Author: Leah Carton

Leah Carton is the Managing Editor of The Setonian. She is a senior at Seton Hall majoring in journalism and public relations. She is a former Features intern for Seventeen Magazine and a former Corporate Communications & Marketing intern for Meridian Health.

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